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While I've already written about ways (not) to write the best query letter in existence, I'd like to talk about a hugely important part of the querying process that gets overlooked far more than it should; that is, the research.
I follow quite a few agents on Twitter and I'm always surprised by the amount of times I see them talking about query letters they receive for genres they don't represent, or queries that blatantly disregard their guidelines. It seems obvious, but those are mistakes that writers frequently make simply because they failed to do their research.
In a way I understand—for the new writer who has never traversed the parts of the internet that make agent and editor research easy, it can be a little daunting. So to help to amend that, I've put together a list of my top five favorite go-to places for agent research all nice and easy for you to find:
- Literary Rambles. Run by the fantastic Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre, Literary Rambles is the first place I check when researching agents. They have a huge database of spotlighted literary agents that is frequently updated, and every spotlight is chock full of information—a bio, likes, dislikes, quotes, links to interviews, clients, sales, submission guidelines and query tips. For an example of this fabulousness, check out agent Sarah LaPolla's spotlight.
- AgentQuery. What I really like about AgentQuery is the ability to search their literary agent database by genre. If you use their full search feature (recommended), you can tailor your search by keywords, multiple genres (fiction and non-fiction) and filter it by whether or not the agent accepts e-mail queries, is a member of AAR, and is actively seeking clients. AgentQuery really takes the hard work out of finding agents for your genre.
- Predators & Editors. This site is a must when researching. Predators & Editors has an enormous list of agents and editors, both legitimate and not. They'll let you know if the agency you're looking into has sales or if you should be wary of them. There are a lot of scammers out there, as well as well-intentioned but entirely inexperienced people out there. Be careful and make sure the agency or publishing house you're looking into is legitimate before you submit your query.
- Absolute Write Water Cooler. What I really like about Absolute Write is that while the other sites provide a neutral, objective profile of the agents, Absolute Write has an agent forum where writers share their personal experiences. Everything from submission times, to responses, to happy news is discussed on the boards as well as not-so happy warnings and bewares. Absolute Write is yet another fantastic place to check before you hit send, and the agent and publishers index is a great place to start.
- Twitter. I know Twitter doesn't sound like a helpful research stop, but you would be surprised what agents tweet about. I've seen a fair share about agent tastes, current wish lists, query tips and faux pas on Twitter alone. For those who are interested, I have a running Twitter list of agents (currently 128 members and growing) that makes it easy follow some fantastic publishing pros.
Regardless of what you use, make sure you take the time to do your research before you start to write your query letters. Not only will it save you time, but you'll learn quite a bit about agent preferences and the pulse of the industry.
So those are my top five to-go research places, but now I want to hear from you. Where do you go to do your agent research?